CRAFT: Working on climate resilient agriculture in East Africa
Climate change has led to more droughts in Tanzania. This not only affects sunflower cultivation, but also the production of sunflower oil. To counter this, oil producers are looking for a solution. Researchers from Wageningen University and Research (WUR) have analyzed the expected drop in production due to climate change in East Africa. With this knowledge, traders and food processors can help farmers with drought-resistant seeds and better tillage techniques and better irrigation systems.
All over the world, farmers face various consequences of climate change: more drought or, on the contrary, more intense rainfall, higher temperatures or increased risk of night frost, flooding and salinization. In the future, climate change could lead to higher food prices, also in urban areas of Africa. To avoid this, the agricultural sector must become more resilient to climate change. But how can we realize this? Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is participating in a Dutch project, coordinated by the Dutch development organization SNV, which has taken the lead in East Africa in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
Beans, sesame and potatoes
“We focus specifically on cheap but in-demand food crops,” said Annemarie Groot, researcher at Wageningen University and Research, in 2019, a year after the CRAFT project began. The focus was on sunflower and common bean in Tanzania, sesame and soybean in Uganda and potato and mung bean in Kenya. In Tanzania, for example, many farmers grow sunflowers. There is a high demand for sunflower oil in the city and in rural areas.
But the increasing drought has led to a drop in the production of sunflower seeds and has also led to a drop in the quality of the harvest. This creates a shortage of good sunflower seeds, which poses a problem for both farmers and the companies that process these sunflower seeds. “Processors cannot keep up with oil demand and cannot work efficiently because many machines are idle. This means companies are feeling the economic impact of climate change and are therefore interested in investing in solutions that can help farmers secure their crops,” Groot said.
Effect on harvest
This project sought collaboration with producers, food processors and vendors through workshops that discussed climate forecasts. This is where WUR’s contribution has had its effect. Researchers monitored the effects of climate change on agricultural production. They worked with CAFFS climate projections specifically for regions and crops. WUR researchers were looking at what these climate projections meant for growing and yielding a crop in a particular area. Projections could show that the rainy season started earlier or later. WUR scientists then looked at how this affects the timing of sowing and harvesting. And when there is an increased risk of drought, researchers could model the effect on crop yield.
In the climate risk assessment workshops, participants discussed climate predictions and their effects. Besides flood damage and increased risk of diseases and pests, the biggest threat is the growing risk of drought. When asked how they experience climate change, all participants mentioned higher temperatures. Some regions saw less precipitation during the growing season, while others received more. By discussing the current and future effects of climate change, participants determined whether there were any real climate risks. If there is little water due to drought and heat, but farmers have good irrigation systems, they are not at risk. But when the water table sinks so deeply that irrigation is no longer possible or becomes too expensive, there is a climate risk.
Training, seeds and irrigation
Once the risks were identified, workshop participants discussed ways to make supply chain activities – from farmers and processors to traders and other market actors – more climate resilient. Groot: “Climate change also presents opportunities, especially for companies that sell drought-tolerant seeds and for insurance companies where farmers can insure themselves against damage caused by drought.”
In April this year, CRAFT published its results. From the start of the project until the end of 2021, the project has supported 54 companies in the Climate Smart Agriculture chain with a total of 7 million euros. The local private agricultural sector has itself invested 13 million euros. This sector has already supported 266,000 smallholder farmers active in various crop value chains, consisting of pulses, oilseeds and potatoes, in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Climate-resilient agro-industries for tomorrow
Climate Resilient Agri-businesses For Tomorrow (CRAFT) is a five-year project that started in 2018. In addition to Wageningen University & Research, the following partners are involved in this project: SNV, which coordinates the project, Rabobank, Agriterra and the CGIAR Program Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CAFF). This project is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.